Aureli sisters navigate albinism amid Italy's scorching heat

Teenage sisters Matilde and Angelica Aureli, who have albinism, face unique challenges in Italy's sweltering temperatures and must care extra to protect their fair complexions and delicate eyesight.
Sisters with albinism and professional models Matilde, 17 and Angelica Aureli, 15, sit on a bench in a park wearing hats and dark sunglasses, using an umbrella to protect their extra-sensitive skin and eyes from the sun, in Rome, Italy, July 12, 2023. Matilde and Angelica navigate unique obstacles as a heatwave grips Italy. The sisters who try not to go out before sunset, carry a special umbrella and sometimes use a high factor sunscreen to protect their skin from direct sun rays. Albinism is a disease caused by a mutation in genes and typically characterised by pale skin, light hair and poor vision.
Sisters with albinism and professional models Matilde, 17 and Angelica Aureli, 15, sit on a bench in a park wearing hats and dark sunglasses, using an umbrella to protect their extra-sensitive skin and eyes from the sun, in Rome, Italy, July 12, 2023. Matilde and Angelica navigate unique obstacles as a heatwave grips Italy. The sisters who try not to go out before sunset, carry a special umbrella and sometimes use a high factor sunscreen to protect their skin from direct sun rays. Albinism is a disease caused by a mutation in genes and typically characterised by pale skin, light hair and poor vision. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

By Gabriele Pileri and Yara Nardi

ROME (Reuters) - Teenage sisters Matilde and Angelica Aureli, who have albinism, face unique challenges in Italy's sweltering temperatures, and must take extra care to protect their fair complexions and delicate eyesight.

Matilde, 17, and Angelica, 15, say it is risky to their health to be outside from about 6 or 7 in the morning until 9 in the evening, and they only leave their home in Rome with hats, dark sunglasses, and black-lined UV sun protection umbrellas.

"When I leave the house, it's obvious that I feel different from others, because the sun bothers my eyes a lot, and let's say it's a much more complicated situation than at home," said Angelica.

Albinism is a genetic condition characterised by a lack of the protective pigment melanin in the hair, skin and eyes. This leaves people especially vulnerable to exposure to sunlight and, according to international health authorities, can increase visual impairment and susceptibility to skin cancer.

Beatrice Gueli, the mother of the Aureli sisters, said her daughters need to have regular skin checks.

Italian authorities have issued red alerts for 16 cities, including Rome, with a new heatwave set to begin on July 15.

Sisters with albinism and professional models Matilde,17 and Angelica Aureli,15, sit on a bench in a park wearing hats and dark sunglasses, using an umbrella to protect their extra-sensitive skin and eyes from the sun, in Rome, Italy, July 12, 2023. Matilde and Angelica navigate unique obstacles as a heatwave grips Italy. The sisters who try not to go out before sunset, carry a special umbrella and sometimes use a high factor sunscreen to protect their skin from direct sun rays. Albinism is a disease caused by a mutation in genes and typically characterised by pale skin, light hair and poor vision.
Sisters with albinism and professional models Matilde,17 and Angelica Aureli,15, sit on a bench in a park wearing hats and dark sunglasses, using an umbrella to protect their extra-sensitive skin and eyes from the sun, in Rome, Italy, July 12, 2023. Matilde and Angelica navigate unique obstacles as a heatwave grips Italy. The sisters who try not to go out before sunset, carry a special umbrella and sometimes use a high factor sunscreen to protect their skin from direct sun rays. Albinism is a disease caused by a mutation in genes and typically characterised by pale skin, light hair and poor vision. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Meteorologists predict that temperatures in the upcoming week may surpass Europe's current record of 48.8 degrees Celsius (119.84 Fahrenheit), set in Sicily in August 2021.

The trend of rising temperatures is unnerving for the sisters.

"In the summer, it is getting hotter year by year... it's actually very scary as an experience because for people with albinism, the sun keeps getting worse. And it is getting brighter and it is a problem," said Matilde.

"I'll continue to go out in the evening... Already during the day I opt for places with air conditioning or indoors."

According to the United Nations, 1 in 5,000 people in Sub-Saharan Africa and 1 in 20,000 people in Europe and North America have albinism.

(Additional reporting by Antonio Denti and Oriana Boselli; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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